Environmental Health, Occupational Health, Environmental Justice, and Climate Change
Baseline Assessment of Environmental Hazards and Air Quality in Brandywine, MD
Crystal Agha (School of Public Health (UMD) Undergraduate Student)
Agha, Crystal (School of Public Health (UMD)), Wilson, Sacoby (UMD School of Public Health)

Background: Brandywine, Maryland, an unincorporated town in Prince George's County, has many locally unwanted land uses (LULUs) such as gas-fired power plants, a Superfund site, a fly ash landfill, a sludge lagoon, 10-12 surface mining operations, a sludge pond, and diesel emissions (3500 diesel truck trips/day). There is scheduled to be five power plants in a 13-mile radius of Brandywine, making this area one of the largest power plant clusters in the United States. The power plants and diesel trucks can emit air pollutants including particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), black carbon, and other air toxics that can impact human health.

Goal: The aim of this study is to assess baseline levels of particulate matter (PM2.5) levels at recreational parks, schools, and commercial areas in close proximity to the Keys Energy Center power plant.

Objectives: Our objective is to determine baseline PM2.5 levels in Brandywine prior to the opening of the new facility. We hypothesize there will be higher levels of PM2.5 at locations closer to roadways from commuter and industrial traffic compared to locations farther away. We hypothesize there will be higher PM2.5 levels at local community centers and recreational locations after the power plant is open.

Approach: Air quality monitoring was conducted through the use of the Airbeam, a real-time personal air monitoring sensor that measures PM2.5 (µg/m3), temperature (℉), sound (dB), and humidity (%). Air quality levels were being recorded at 1-second intervals through the AirCasting app. These were conducted in July 2017 during off-peak hours in the morning. Researchers also considered meteorological conditions and traffic counts at sites near roadways.

Results: The PM levels at the five different sites ranged from 2 µg/m3 to 38 µg/m3. The range for the overall averages for the five different sites were from 3 µg/m3 to 5 µg/m3. The highest PM readings were observed at the section of the park closest to the new facility.

Importance to public health: Creating a baseline assessment of air quality near these environmental health hazards will allow us to track changes in air quality and assess exposure-disease associations for at-risk populations.